CDC Life: It's Not a Gap Year
By: Emily Skywark, Gamma Pi-Roanoke
When I said “yes” to my CDC year, I was excited, but had so many misconceptions about what this life would bring me. By intentionally stepping outside of public health and into a different field, I thought I was taking a break from career development. In committing to traveling constantly and living out of a suitcase, I thought I would find myself often lonely and missing home. Even the title, “Collegiate Development Consultant” itself inspired a misconception that I would only be developing collegians and chapters, not myself. Every day, everything I believed about my time as a CDC was turned on its head and I would not be who I am today if this year had happened any other way.
On what I thought was a “gap year” from my intended field before imminent graduate school, I grew even more sure of my path by developing skills to be a leader in my field and by seeing health in everything I did. I had time to reflect on who I was and who I wanted to be, both as a professional and as a person. By seeing so many different cities, states and campuses, I was given the rare opportunity to enter the graduate school search truly aware of all there was out there. I found that certain states and campus sizes felt like home, and I took my time thoughtfully applying to programs that I knew would feel like home too. In all the reflecting I did about myself and where I wanted to be, my applications were stronger than they ever could have been without this year. I am heading to a program next year that is the perfect fit, excited about my career in public health and armed with unique skills and experiences that will set me apart, all thanks to this time I took to learn about myself.
I found some of the deepest friendships I have ever had and true homes all over the country. Some of these friendships came from other CDCs who were living the same life as me. We lived together, traveled together, randomly bumped into each other on streets of cities and always answered the phone for each other to talk something out. Some of these friendships came from visits where you truly got to see a woman in her element. This was especially true on longer stays, like the time I spent at Theta Alpha chapter watching so many women thrive, struggle, shine and grow to become who they are today. I learned to redefine home and community, finding a new way to experience home everywhere I went. I had sisters to always come home to, favorite spots in every town and even a community at a gym in San Luis Obispo that I went to every day.
In this experience, I found that I grew more as a person than I ever could have dreamed of. I became confident in myself through constant self-assurance and learned to accept all of my strengths and weaknesses. Most dramatically to anyone who knew me before this year, I learned to go with the flow. Not only did this make me a better person, it helped me to rethink my life after this year. I am so excited for my next two years of grad school, but I no longer feel compelled to have 5, 10, 15 and 20 year plans. I learned that I am more flexible than I thought and know that my happiest memories have come from just saying yes to whatever comes my way. One of my favorite adventures this year happened on a break trip to Las Vegas/Zion National Park—because we just said yes and stayed positive every step of the way. I will always have pictures of Zion to look back on if I forget this lesson!
I know more about myself and who I want to be from this one year than I ever could have imagined knowing about myself in the next 10. I feel so grateful to Delta Gamma for this growth and will always continue to say yes and give back to the Fraternity that gave me so much. To this Fraternity and everyone who was along for this ride, thank you!
ITB, CDC Emily Skywark